I never thought I would say this in my lifetime, but I am glad college football season is over.
I don’t speak for all fans, and I certainly don’t speak for the University of Alabama (quite the opposite, in fact), nevertheless, the 2017-2018 season seemed like one of the dullest, lamest years in recent memory. In this “Top 5,” some things apply to the nation, while others hit closer to home.
Let the hate-ranting begin…
Alabama Won the National Championship
Dynasties aren’t usually supposed to mount comebacks to win championships, yet it happened this year when No. 3 Georgia was up 20-7 on No. 4 Alabama midway through the third quarter. The Crimson Tide eventually remembered, “Hey, haven’t we been here a million times already?!”, and subsequently dominated the Bulldogs down the stretch for an overtime win, 26-23.
It bore uncanny resemblance to last year’s Super Bowl, when the Atlanta Falcons were beaten by the equally dynastic New England Patriots via a 25-point comeback. I had the same bittersweet feelings then as I do now; that “wow, they actually pulled that off” moment, followed by “good Lord, not them again…”.
As spectacular of a game as it was, the result was as predictable as it’s been since 2010. Alabama added another one to the trophy case before the last one could even gather dust, earning a collective groan for a good chunk of college sports fans, and they did it by inserting a freshman quarterback, all but guaranteeing that head coach Nick Saban and the U of A aren’t pumping the brakes anytime soon.
The Tide rolls ever on and on. And speaking of the championship…
All-SEC Championship Game
It’s not like we can really blame Alabama and Georgia, both 12-1 Southeastern Conference teams, for playing their way into the title game. We can certainly have beef with it, though.
For all the Big 10 and ACC could do, the SEC reigned ridiculously supreme this season, confirming every bias towards the conference as the best in the NCAA. Alabama, Georgia, and Auburn all proved their mettle, and it was irritating to see for those wishing there were more balance in college football.
That led to the lamest decision the Playoff Committee could possibly have made; they put both Georgia and Bama in the playoff, completely tipping the scales in the SEC’s favor. Both schools then proceeded to ruin it for everyone else, as Georgia took down the Big 12’s Oklahoma, featuring the most interesting player in the FBS this season in Heisman winner Baker Mayfield, and Alabama crushed the ACC’s Clemson, the team that finally blew up the Crimson Death Star in the championship last year.
After the recent resurgence of teams like Florida State (ACC), Clemson (ACC), Oklahoma (Big 12), and Ohio State (Big 10) brought some conference competitiveness back to the FBS, this year’s playoff set it back several years, and most of the blame ought to lie with the playoff committee for forming that disgusting bracket instead of allowing a different team.
And speaking of a different team…
No Chance for UCF
Name any other sport in the world where a team can go completely undefeated and still not even make the playoffs? I’ll wait.
The University of Central Florida’s fanbase has been fairly outward about their frustration with the committee’s decision to keep UCF out of the playoff despite their 12-0 record, as evidenced by a certain billboard seen down in Tuscaloosa, AL.
They have every gosh-dang right to be. The Knights got left out due to the low difficulty of their schedule, which apparently dictates that wins over a ranked, 10-win South Florida team, a ranked Memphis team (twice), Temple, Navy, and SMU don’t mean anything at all.
UCF’s brilliance looks like a flash in the pan considering they went 0-12 two seasons ago, but back it up a few more years than that, and in 2013, a certain Blake Bortles, now a starting quarterback in the NFL, led the Knights to a 13-1 record, capped off by a 52-42 victory over the former powerhouse of Baylor in, of course, a non-playoff bowl. In that perspective, UCF being a championship-level team isn’t that foreign of a concept.
It’s not just that the Knights didn’t get invited to the playoff. It’s that they did everything possible to make themselves eligible and still weren’t allowed in, a damning sign for every non-P5 conference in the country. What’s the point in going for it all if bureaucrats get in the way?
It should make even more sense to those fans right here in Utah who saw a certain group of Utah Utes get the same disappointing result. Long live the ’08 Utes.
Speaking of disappointment…
Utah U’s Blues
Forget for a moment about how the Utah State Aggies got back into bowl eligibility after a slump. Beside that little bright spot, the state of Utah straight up sucked at football this season.
The Aggies clawed their way to 6-6, the Utah Utes had a rebuilding season at 6-6 plus a bowl victory, and the BYU Cougars completely drowned in the deep end en route to a horrific 4-9 season, breaking an 11-year bowl streak.
Don’t get me wrong, as a former BYU fan, watching the Utes suffer is great. Now, as a converted USU fan, watching BYU collapse is borderline hilarious. Nevertheless, the unanimous struggle of Utah’s FBS schools doesn’t bode well for the state.
For the Aggies, the slight improvement on last year’s 3-9 debacle is nice for fans, but the failure of the team to make any statement wins proved an overarching summation: They’re not out of the woods yet.
For the Utes, it was a common storyline as Utah clobbered their way through a pathetic non-conference schedule, earning them a wealth of pollster pandering (No. 20 in Week 5’s Associated Press Poll). Then things got real, and the U went down the tank harder than they usually do.
Then there was BYU, and as much as all the Cougar haters (great golly, there are many) want to laugh at their pain, the plight of the state’s most storied football program doesn’t look good for any of us. BYU is the team Utah State sets their crosshairs on every year, and their poor play progressively soured the taste of the rivalry. They are the team that Utah has to beat to stay respected, and it just didn’t matter this season.
It just wasn’t a year to remember for the state.*
And speaking of things to remember…
State on the Wrong Side of History
The Aggies fought their way to bowl eligibility for the opportunity to play, and lose to, the Aggies.
New Mexico State took down USU in overtime on a walk-off touchdown run, 26-20. Before that, Utah State kicker Dominik Eberle, a Lou Groza contender, whiffed on kick after kick that could have won them the game.
To NMSU’s credit, their program needed this victory more than Utah State did, having not won a bowl since before there were footprints on the Moon. Their bowl pedigree makes USU’s look like Notre Dame.
For our own Aggies, however, it means another losing season at the end of it all, making it two straight under the largely criticized head coach Matt Wells.
*BONUS BRIGHT SPOT
For all the dumping on FBS football, let’s not forget that other colleges in Utah play football, too, and it was a great year for some.
I can’t remember the last time I heard the words “Weber State” and “good season” in the same sentence and not be talking about basketball. Yet the Wildcats deserved every bit of this shout out by finishing the regular season in the FCS Top 10, essentially “wild-carding” into the playoffs, and making a Cinderella run into the quarterfinals that ended with the top-seeded James Madison University edging them by a field goal.
En route to that deep playoff run, the Cats squashed Big Sky rival Southern Utah, who had a comeback season by claiming the Big Sky Championship and also making the playoffs on a first-round bye.
Go even lower in the tiers than that, another shout out goes to the Snow College Badgers, the JUCO factory in the middle of nowhere that played to a 10-1 season, losing their only game by a field goal to the eventual NJCAA championship runners-up, Arizona Western. Snow finished No. 4 in the NJCAA polls.